Category Archives: Featured Content

History of Valdez Fish Derbies: 55 Years of Fabulous Fishing

History Written by Laurie Prax

When it comes to a fish story, everyone has a different tale. And when the story begins more than 50 years ago, there are many colorful and varied details. To re-create the history of the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby, started in 1952, Chamber records were scoured and interviews were conducted with previous organizers and officials as well as local anglers and business people.

Different people have been credited with starting the Silver Salmon Derby, but everyone agrees it was started by local business people and later picked up and run under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce. When the Chamber closed its doors in the late 1990s, a small group of volunteers ran the derby using the Gaming Permit of the Valdez Convention & Visitors Bureau. The derby currently is its own non-profit corporation run by seven volunteer committee members.

In the early days, anglers were fishing for wild stock Coho salmon in the derby. The traditional return of wild stock Cohos to Corbin Creek was about 9,000 fish annually, according to Dave Cobb of the Valdez Fisheries Development Association. Cobb said the derby has grown exponentially with the silver return over the years.

The Silver Derby ran for 30 years before the inception of a Valdez Halibut Derby, which was started in the mid-‘80s by Darrell Shreve and Jim Heston. In the late ‘90s the halibut derby was changed from a large fish derby to a target weight derby. In 2002, the big fish derby returned with a $10,000 prize for the largest fish caught.

The Pink Salmon Derby started in 1991 as a four-day derby with a $500 prize each day, and a Kids Pink Salmon Derby day was held in 2001. The Pink Salmon Derby was discontinued due to low ticket sales, but in 2008, the Kids Pink Salmon Derby made a comeback with a free one-day tournament open to kids age 5 through 16, and continues to this day.

As we look back through the years it’s remarkable to see how the Fish Derbies have grown. With $80,000 in cash and prizes at stake, it’s refreshing that most anglers are fishing for the sport of it. Sure, the prizes make it more exciting but it’s one of the few contests where you get to spend a wonderful day on the water win or lose.

Go to for more information.

Fish-n-Map Provides Need-to-Know Fishing Info

Fish-n-Map Company’s maps and charts are some of the best fishing guides available. Our maps are excellent for finding fishing spots! Printed on a waterproof, tear-resistant material, our maps include valuable information for the fisherman such as underwater depth contours, underwater bottom conditions, identification of river inlets, feeder creeks and canals as well as submerged brush and rock reefs.

Lake size and elevation and known fish species are also listed.

Fishing suggestions abound on our maps and charts! Multiple GPS coordinates are provided on our saltwater charts and many of our freshwater maps. All maps and charts include latitude and longitude grids.

Looking for the nearest boat ramp or campground? We can help you with that too! Our maps and charts show the location of boat ramps, campgrounds and facilities.

Whether you’re looking for new insight on your favorite fishing area or whether you’re researching a fishing strategy for a new area, our maps are excellent for finding fishing spots.

FISH SMART WITH FISH-N-MAP COMPANY! Available through your local retailers or online at

Alaska Shuttle Service – Best Choice, Alternative To Renting A Car in Alaska

You arrive in Anchorage and want to get to Seward for your fishing adventure; you and your friends, family are excited to see the sights and relax, so you call Alaska Shuttle Service and  let your adventure begin with us.

We will pick you up in Anchorage and take you to Seward or Cooper Landing so you can get to your vacation, and get into some fishing. Got lots of gear, fish boxes? No problem we have lots of room in our 14-passenger shuttle bus for you and all your gear.

Alaska Shuttle Service specializes in group shuttles and tours.  We cater to your schedule, and we are here for you to make your adventure the best it can be.

Got a group of friends in Anchorage and you want to go fish the Russian but don’t want to take two cars and don’t want to worry about who will drive, We got you covered. Call Alaska Shuttle Service and let us get you to the fishing grounds. Don’t wait in line at the Russian Campground, we get to move right through and put you on the water and get those fish on your line.

Alaska Shuttle Service

Tickets On Sale Now For SalmonStock, Aug. 2-4


Tickets are on sale now for Salmonstock 2013, a three-day, four-stage music festival featuring 30-plus outside and Alaska bands. Salmonstock, a fundraiser to protect wild Alaskan salmon, runs August 2-4 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska.

More than 5,000 people attended Salmonstock in 2012 and this year’s lineup is even fatter and juicier. Top national acts include supercharged bluegrass masters Trampled by Turtles, Minnesota rock & roll, jam band The Big Wu and up-and-coming Colorado bluegrass band, Head for the Hills. Also joining the lineup is Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Moonalice and Si Kahn.

More bands, including additional headliners and Alaska acts, will be announced in the coming weeks.

This dynamic festival features crafts and performance art, info booths and seminars, children’s activities and Alaska brew and food — including, of course, salmon. Camping is available near the festival grounds, with free shuttle service to the festival.

Salmonstock celebrates wild Alaskan salmon and the people who depend on them. The festival is organized by the Renewable Resources Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wild Alaskan salmon habitat from the proposed Pebble Mine and other potential threats. Learn more at

Earlybird tickets are $99 (3-days) or $85 (2-days) and are available now through May 31st. Advance tickets are $115 (3-days), $95 (2-days), $50 (Friday or Sunday), $60 (Saturday), available June 1st through August 1st. Tickets at the gate will be $135 (3-days), $50 (Friday or Sunday), $60 (Saturday). Ages 12 and younger are admitted free (must be accompanied by a ticket-holding adult). Buy tickets and learn more at

Frontier Safety & Supply’s Backcountry Kit A Must For Alaskan Outdoorsmen

At Frontier Safety and Supply, we know first-hand the importance of providing the highest quality products at the most competitive prices possible! We are outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about safety for those who push the limits on land, water, and in the air. We offer safety supplies and training to help you return safely from your adventures!

The Backcountry First Aid and Survival Kit is designed and assembled by Frontier Safety and Supply. It is the exact one used on countless remote Alaskan adventures by our staff and friends.

Its intended use is for essential items only, not things that can be improvised. It is waterproof, compact and lightweight so that you have no excuse to leave it behind. You can customize this kit by hand-picking the waterproof container and/or contents! We are confident you will be impressed! We have lots of extra items that you can add; and we won’t be hurt if you ask for items to be removed! We will adjust the price accordingly.

We pride ourselves in customizing kits for a single person, or large orders. Contact us directly to make changes to your kit or have it co-branded with your logo.

Visit for more information.

Fairbanks Outdoor & Interior Alaska Gun Show Dates, Exhibitors List

The dates and exhibitor list for the 2013 Fairbanks Outdoor Show and Interior Alaska Gun Show, held at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, have been set.

The outdoor show runs April 19-21 and the gun show is April 20-21.

Here is a list of exhibitors:

• 2-D Max Alaska
• Afishhunt Charters
• Alaska Angling Adventures
• Alaska Boat Brokers
• Alaska Butcher Equipment & Supply
• Alaska Camera
• Alaska Department of Natural Resources
• Alaska Fun Center
• Alaska H20 Sports
• Alaska Hunter / Alaska Angler Publications
• Alaska Outdoor Access Alliance
• Alaska Raft and Kayak
• Alaska Shoe Magic
• Alaska Shrimp Pots
• Alaska Tent & Tarp
• Alaska Wildlife Images
• Anderson Products
• Andrew Airways
• Arctic Chiropractic
• Big Rays Fly Shop
• Blue Moose Rafting
• Bow Craft
• Catch-A-Lot Charters
• Chitina Dipnetter’s Association
• Compeau’s
• Cookie Lee Jewelry
• Cutco Cutlery
• Delta Meat & Sausage
• Denali Alaskan FCU
• Denali Raft Adventures
• Dick Randolph State Farm
• Division of Air Quality
• Division of Air Quality
• Eagle’s Rest RV Park and Cabins
• FAA Safety Team
• Fairbanks Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
• Fish Central
• FNSB Air Quality
• Ft. Wainwright Department of Natural Resources
• Great Alaskan Holidays
• Heavenly Sights Charters
• Hunt of a Lifetime
• Interior Freight Dog Association
• Island Air
• Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council
• Kodiak Island Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
• Kodiak Raspberry Lodge
• Mahay’s Riverboat Discovery
• Mat-Su Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
• MonaVie
• Moosetard
• Namibia Safari
• Nenana Raft Adventures
• Ninilchik Charters
• Orca Island Cabins
• Phantom Salmon Charters
• Phoenix 2001 Soccer
• Pristine Ventures
• Reeds Snowmachine and Marine
• Renewable Resources
• River Wranglers / Nova
• Scentsy
• Seward Chamber of Commerce
• Stan Stephens Cruises
• Tanana Adventure Sports
• The Boat Shop
• The Jerky Hut
• Valdez CVB
• And More to Come!

Frank Ensminger, Alaskan Bronze Artist

Frank Entsminger, man of the outdoors, started his career as a taxidermist in high school. As a photographer, naturalist and hunting guide, his career has led him to become one of Alaska’s renowned wildlife bronze artists.

Born and raised in Montana, Frank’s keen interest in the out-of-doors drew him to Alaska fresh out of high school. This June will mark the 50th year he has lived in this vast state. For Frank, no other experience can replace those early years in Alaska when so much of her wilderness and wildlife were brand-new images etched forever in his mind. Even to this day, because Alaska is so vast and diversified, new images and subject matter continue to surface in his artistic mind.


Another turning point in his life occurred in 1988 with an opportunity to travel to Mongolia via China as a nonhunting companion accompanying a friend in pursuit of antelope, ibex and argali sheep. After returning to the United States, he could not get the trip out of his mind. Some years later, he returned to Mongolia and then went on to Russian and Tajikistan. It led him to incorporate Asian wildlife in his portfolio. Frank believes, “Seeing wildlife first hand in its natural environment is a must to accurately depicting it. Reality trumps fantasy every time.”  |

Cabela’s Planning Anchorage Store

By this time next year, construction should be well under way on a new 100,000-square-foot Cabela’s store in Anchorage, the first in Alaska and most northerly outlet for the Nebraska-based company.

The announcement was made today in a press release. The store will be located a couple miles southwest of the airport and employ 200 part- and full-time staffers.

The store will feature the trademark exposed timber-and-stone finishes as well as a “next-generation layout, designed to surround customers in an outdoor experience, including conservation-themed wildlife displays and trophy animal mounts displayed on a mountain.”

There will also be the traditional huge aquarium, Gun Library, Bargain Cave and Fudge Shop.

A spokesman said Cabela’s loves Alaska, has great customers there and has wanted to build an outlet there.

Pebble Mine Fight Building; Comments Due, Frontline Episode Next Week

You have through this weekend to comment on an assessment of Alaska’s wild, salmon-rich Bristol Bay that says the watershed could be harmed by mines such as the proposed gash in the earth known as Pebble.

Sorry, a little bit biased on this one.

Comment deadline is Monday, July 23.

To file yours, go here.

Hal Herring, a Conservation blogger at Field & Stream, writes beautifully about the need to protect this area:

In 2008, I made a trip to the Mulchatna River to fish with friends and see some of the country that would be forever changed by the Pebble Mine Project. I’ve never been back–although I’d give most anything to fish those waters again–but the place is always with me. The strange, snow-etched Jackrabbit Hills, with the weird calligraphy of a million caribou trails crossing them and fanning out on the flat tundra like poetry written in a language that only hunters remember.

Potholes aswarm with nesting waterfowl, and the deep prints of a grizzly way too close to the fish cleaning table. It’s all there in my mind, that land and the fish themselves, blood-red sockeye in cold green water, silvery kings thrashing in the shoals, the perfect dots on the side of an arctic char that look so much like tiny planets glowing in a twilight sky that it surely makes you wonder, really, how this world of ours came to be like this, and what it might mean, that a creature could be so beautiful. I carry those memories. I would never see the world quite the same way if I knew that place was gone, even if I never see it again myself.

Now is the time for those of us who know what is there, and for those of us who would one day like to see it as it is, in the perfection of its creation, to be heard. Even if you never plan to go there, every fisherman and hunter is tied to this place. Whatever string you tug, whatever fish you take in whatever river, the whitetail in your woodlot or local swamp or marsh, it is all part of the net that includes the mighty Mulchatna, the Koktuli River, the wind and tide and fury and life of Bristol Bay. We live in a democratic republic and the whole process depends on responsible citizens who are willing to speak out and participate. Be heard.

Meanwhile, following on the tails of other recent stories on Bristol Bay and Pebble Mine, PBS’s Frontline takes on the issue on Tuesday night.

View a trailer here.

Crash The Barn Door On Alaska’s ‘Halibut Highway’


State stats show it can be ground zero for highest average fish weight.

by Andy Martin

For years, Ron Goode had traveled from one end of Alaska to the other in search of a barn door halibut.

He’d come close off of Kodiak, and near Ketchikan, but he was still looking for his first trophy-size fish. Then, in the frigid waters of Icy Strait, Goode finally hit pay dirt. The 78-yearold Napa, Calif., man was fishing a whole king salmon head near the mouth of Glacier Bay when he felt the massive tug he’d been waiting for.

Goode’s stiff halibut rod doubled over as a massive fish began peeling line from his oversized Penn reel. For 45 minutes, he went back and forth with the giant fish.

Justin and Sierra Parker hold a 150-pound halibut caught out of Gustavus, Alaska, aboard the Icy Rose with Capt. Andy Martin. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

It took nearly half an hour just to get it off of the bottom, and another 15 minutes to get the beast close to the boat. As he and the fish were near exhaustion, the giant silhouette of the halibut appeared below the surface. A few cranks later and the halibut’s basketball-size mouth came into view, with the 20/0 Eagle Claw circle hook latched into its jaw. Goode and his buddies could barely believe it. The fish was at least 6 feet long.

They’d never seen a halibut that size. It was twice as big as anything they’d ever caught.

With a quick jab of the harpoon and a single shot from a .410 shotgun, Goode’s first 200-plus-pound halibut was now subdued. The giant fish measured 76 inches, and weighed 235 pounds.

Goode joined the barn door club in what is arguably Alaska’s most fertile trophy halibut grounds, the section of the Inside Passage between Elfin Cove and Gustavus. In most Alaskan ports, a 200-pluspound halibut would draw quite a crowd as it is hoisted onto the scale back at the docks. A fish that big would contend for first place in the Seward halibut derby. It would be one of the biggest fish of the season in both Homer and Ninilchik.

But along the northwest end of the Inside Passage, a 200-pounder, while a fish of a lifetime for many anglers and one that most others can only dream about, barely turns heads. Individual charter captains catch dozens of 200- and 300-pound fish each season in Gustavus and Glacier Bay.

A few 400-plus-pounders are landed every year. Fish pushing 500 pounds have been measured and released. No other area of Alaska yields as many halibut over 200 pounds for sport anglers as the fish-infested waters where Icy Strait meets Glacier Bay.


Charter boat captains and commercial longliners refer to the North Pass of Icy Strait as the “Halibut Highway.” Most of the halibut that migrate into the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay to feed on herring, candlefish, pink salmon and pollock pass through the narrow waterway between Point Carolus and Lemesurier Island.

The small fleet from Gustavus that fishes the pass each day lands more halibut over 100 pounds than charters do in any other part of Alaska, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game creel surveys. The section also has the shortest angling effort time to get a limit, and by far the largest average size of halibut kept, state stats have shown.

Two of the biggest halibut ever landed have been unloaded at the Gustavus dock. Last September, a 95-inch halibut that weighed an estimated 480 pounds was caught on a self-guided trip out of Gustavus. The year before, a 466-pound, 94-inch halibut was landed in the same area. Both would have contended for a new world record, but the closest IGFA certified weight station is 45 miles away in Juneau, and by the time the rod was handed off to other anglers and harpoons and shotguns were used to land them, it’s questionable whether they would have even qualified for the record.

A few halibut between 475 and 500 pounds have been brought up to boats, measured and released in recent years.

Ron Goode and Capt. Andy Martin pose with Goode’s 200-plus-pounder. (WILD RIVERS FISHING)

Witnesses say those fish were bigger than the 459-pound world record caught in 1996 out of Dutch Harbor.

Aside from those monster fish brought in each year, and the hundreds of fish landed between 175 and 400 pounds near Gustavus, the area is the undisputed halibut capital of Alaska when it comes to average size fish. According to ADFG stats, the average size halibut kept in Gustavus in 2010, the last year the figures are available for, is 47 pounds. That’s substantially bigger than the 15-pound average out of Homer, Seward and Sitka. The only place even close is Yakutat, where the average size is around 30 pounds. The 10-year average also shows the average size halibut kept in Gustavus and the Glacier Bay area is three times bigger than Seward, Homer, Kodiak and Ninilchik. So even with a onefish limit, anglers fishing in Gustavus are likely to come home with more fillets than anglers fishing elsewhere.

But it’s those really big fish that tend to draw anglers like Goode to the Glacier Bay area. Anglers who want a barn door have learned Gustavus is ground zero for the biggest halibut in the world.


The mouth of Glacier Bay is one of the largest feeding areas for humpback whales during the summer. The tons of baitfish that attract the whales also draw in the halibut.

There is so much food that fish swimming along the Halibut Highway often spend the entire summer in the small area near the North Pass to fatten up on the herring, candlefish, pink salmon and other abundant food. Some halibut will continue on the Halibut Highway toward Juneau, Hoonah, Skagway and other Inside Passage harbors, but most stay where the food is. After all, it takes a lot of herring or small salmon to keep up with the appetite 300- or 400-pound fish, and the strong currents colliding at the mouth of Glacier Bay and the North Pass trap untold tons of feed.

From May through September, the halibut fishing is wide open. It’s not uncommon for an angler to release a dozen fish before settling on the halibut he or she wants to keep. Sometimes it’s that 200-pound barn door. Often it’s a 30- to 40-pounder, considered to be the best eating size.

While anglers aboard charters in other Alaska communities may sort through half a dozen small fish just to catch a 15-pounder, anglers in Gustavus are known to release 100-pounders so they can get that perfect 45-pound fish with prime fillets.


Most anglers who fish near Glacier Bay have fished somewhere else in Alaska

A large halibut caught in the area, including first. After all, many anglers can’t even when a big fish hits, it can take the bait and run without feeling resistance. Using leverdrag reels, the tension is increased as the fish makes off with the bait.

Fighting belts are needed to give anglers a chance to land the giant fish.


Gustavus, population 460 as of 2011, is the smallest community in Alaska with jet service from Alaska Airlines. The town is 45 miles to the west of Juneau. The afternoon flight from Seattle to Juneau continues to Gustavus each day during the summer.

Smaller prop planes also make dozens of flights a day between Gustavus and Juneau. There also is ferry service. Most anglers come for a five-day trip and stay at a lodge, although some open charter seats may be available.

Alaskan Anglers Inn ( is the largest fishing lodge in town, with six boats. Anglers fish four or five to a boat and once limits of halibut are caught, lingcod, king and coho salmon and rockfish are targeted.

Editor’s note: Editor’s note: The author is an Alaska fishing guide and charter boat captain who skippers out of Gustavus for Alaskan Anglers Inn. His Web site is